Section III. Timing Your Purchase and Improvements
Does it make any difference when you buy your ranch, when you high fence a ranch, when you dig a new stocktank? In this section, I provide some suggestions as to when to implement your plans, either for buying or developing your new ranch.
Ch. 3-1: When to Buy
Below are my sales for the last several years. I deal in ranches from 500 acres to 5,000, and work with buyers who primarily want their ranch for wildlife enjoyment, with or without extensive management. The buyers come from all walks of life; some pay cash, some use financing, all variations with wildlife as the common thread. I only have one buyer currently who is looking for land for cattle ranching. At today’s prices, I believe he will be looking for a LONG time!
JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
1 3 3 1 1 5 2 2 5 3 2 1
As you can see, most of my closings occur in June thru September with very few closings in the winter months. This means we started looking right after hunting season and that is the busiest time for ranch Brokers. Hunting season is over and people who were hunting on leased land are fed up with their landlord or the quality of wildlife on their lease and want to get their own place. This is also when most ranches come on the market because landowners wanted to hunt the ranch one last time or had leases to honor. After the season is over, they want to get it sold before everything turns brown in the summer heat.
As a buyer, you can use this knowledge to your advantage by doing your homework during the hunting season. Admittedly, most ranches will not be officially listed and thus unavailable for showings. But some leftovers from the last year will be available to see. Even with hunters going in and out, you can look at ranches and practice learning a ranch. Types of brush, water systems, improvements, etc. can be learned during the winter, even if the ranch you’re looking at does not suit you. It is good to see these places in the winter as well. Grasses are dormant and you can see the effects of over-grazing best in late winter. Wildlife is being harvested and there are always new pictures of deer to teach you about genetics and management results. Landowners are touchy about showings during the season but will usually work around the hunters. If you run into someone not happy with you and your Broker being there, be graceful and leave; they have guns. I showed a place in Zavala Co. one afternoon and as we drove past the HQ, I waved at a hunter. Later, I noticed him following us and I stopped to visit. He was quite angry with me as he did not know the ranch was for sale and blamed it on me. Needless to say, we moved out smartly and called before we returned.
Once you get into the “rush” period after hunting season, look at any ranch that interests you as soon as you can. Depending on the economy and oil prices, it may be a Seller’s market and I have seen numerous ranches sell before I could even get a decent package to my Buyer. It is not unlike a feeding frenzy with the choicest morsels going to the quickest shark. That is not to say you should choose rashly. If you have had the time to study the area, know what you want and where, you can move quickly when the right place comes along. With that in mind, it is good to have your financing lined up before you start looking. I hate to get in a bidding war with another broker and his buyer only to hear my buyer ask where he could get good financing. Someone already qualified has the upper hand in negotiations over one that does not.
Another reason it is good to buy during early in the summer it that it allows you time to plan what you want to do and get some of the work done before hunting season. C’mon, you bought the ranch to enjoy, leave time to go hunting and relax. It never hurts, either, to get the previous owner’s cattle off the ranch before September. Even with previous heavy grazing, September rains will give you some grass and weeds for next springs’ nesting.
Another active period in ranch sales is just before hunting season. Sellers are panicky if they need or want to sell before the season, and you can get some deals. Sometimes you may have to honor a hunting lease for one of these deals, but it may be worth it to get a good price. The feeding frenzy is over, and the pickings might appear slim, but work with your broker, the NRCS, and your brush contractor to see if a sows’ ear bought cheaply could be turned into a silk purse for a reasonable sum.
Lastly, if you’ve looked all spring and summer and not found your ranch, consider buying for resale. Look at buying a smaller place or one without the house you want and spending the winter fixing it up for the next frenzy. You’ll gain experience and have something that will sell quickly, maybe making you a little money in the bargain.